Inside Downtown 2013 – Cascade District

Neighborhood History

What do paper boxes, pianos, soda syrups, dead bodies, horse carriages and nerdy eyeglasses have in common? They were all either made or stored in the Cascade District. The Knowlton Building manufactured machinery that made paper boxes. A busy piano factory was in the area, as well as several stables housing carriages and horses. Soda syrups were concocted in the Bridge Square Lofts building. The “nerdy eyeglasses” are the Art-Rim Clubman style, created by ArtCraft Optical in the 1940s and still fashionable today. And the dead bodies? The City Morgue was built here in 1901 and continued operation for 60 years. All of these spaces now have new life as work places and homes.

Photo Courtesy Don Corcoran Photography
Photo Courtesy Don Corcoran Photography

100 years ago the neighborhood was surrounded by transportation routes – major railroad lines, the Erie Canal (where Broad Street runs today) and “the road to Buffalo”—aka Main Street. No wonder it was a flourishing area for manufacturing and warehousing, people and goods could be easily moved. It’s still bordered by transportation routes: today it’s West Main Street, Plymouth Avenue, the Inner Loop and Route I-490.

The Bridge in Bridge Square?

The Cascade District has another name – it is the Bridge Square Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The District is not named in honor of the I-490 overpass that borders the western end of the area. The Erie Canal used to cross just
about where I-490 is today—a lift bridge enabled Main Street traffic to get over the canal and was raised up to let taller boats pass through—yes, like the bridge in Fairport.

Living or Working Here

What those routes mean to the current residents is ease of travel pretty much anyplace they want to get to. But who wants to leave when you have lofts with expansive spaces, spectacular city views and congenial neighbors? The repurposed buildings here were among the first to incorporate a celebration of the original materials, rather than hiding them in imitation of a suburban interior. Brick, exposed beams and other remnants of earlier days insure residents and visitors enjoy a place with a unique character.

Photo Courtesy Gene Avallone
Photo Courtesy Gene Avallone